After Sunday night’s six-touchdown debacle in Pittsburgh, something had to change for the Baltimore secondary.
Having been embarrassed in front of the entire country and making it obvious that the team had less than subpar talent, making multiple moves at cornerback this week was a must.
The Baltimore Ravens did just that, first by weeding out the weak and releasing cornerbacks Dominique Franks and Chykie Brown. With star corner Jimmy Smith injured and out for the season, that left the team with just one healthy corner, struggling veteran Lardarius Webb.
With the trade deadline past and a weak free agent market this late in the season, the team didn’t have too many choices. The first choice was easy: keep things in house and promote rookie Tramain Jacobs from the practice squad. That was a start, but the Ravens still needed at least one more cornerback.
Luckily for Baltimore, a familiar face made his way onto the open market earlier in the week. Veteran cornerback and former Raven (2010-12) Danny Gorrer was released by the Detroit Lions. With few options on the market, bringing back a player who has prior experience with the team was the sensible choice.
He isn’t defunct of playing time this season, either, unlike Jacobs, who has spent the entire season on the practice squad. Prior to his release from Detroit, Gorrer was active for six games, totaling 174 defensive snaps as a slot corner.
Bringing in someone with 2014 playing experience should help, and with Gorrer being the elder over Jacobs, he’ll likely earn more snaps this Sunday against the Tennessee Titans. Gorrer, Jacobs and Webb are all the Ravens have as of now at the cornerback position.
With Webb looking like a player clearly past his prime, Gorrer and Jacobs will be relied on to help patch together a struggling Baltimore secondary. Expectations won’t be too high for the duo, but with Gorrer being a former Ravens and a six-year NFL veteran, he’ll be the one expected to contribute.
After the comedic play of Franks and Brown, simply a serviceable output by Gorrer is good enough to get the Ravens defense back on track at this stage.
Can he be relied on as a viable starter for Baltimore’s defense?
Let’s take a look at his performance with the Lions earlier this season.
With Gorrer lower on the depth chart in Detroit, his playing time typically came in nickel packages as the slot cornerback.
When it comes to the fundamentals such as hip technique, footwork and the ability to shadow receivers, Gorrer doesn’t stand out, which is probably why he has been on six different NFL teams.
Where he does stand out, though, is in the awareness department. Something Brown particularly lacked with the Ravens, Gorrer does offer improvement when it comes to diagnosing a play and reacting in ample time.
Take a play against the Buffalo Bills for example.
Gorrer is the slot corner, and the Bills have three receivers lined up in a bunch with Gorrer being the only Lions secondary member up on the line to defend.
Keep an eye on Bills receiver Chris Hogan, who is closest to the offensive line to begin the play.
Gorrer has cornerback help to his right and safety help deep to his left. Obviously all three receivers aren’t his obligation to cover, but to start the play, he needs to properly follow the bunch to not let the trio split up too easily.
He originally follows the two outside receivers downfield.
With Hogan staying close to the line of scrimmage and originally directing his route to his right, Gorrer doesn’t need to tend to him.
He remains his hold on the two outside receivers enough downfield to make sure neither gains inherent separation prior to being met by the second line of defense in the secondary.
As Gorrer trails the two receivers, Hogan’s route begins to open up underneath to Gorrer’s right. With two more lethal receivers running down the middle, Gorrer may be inclined to assume one of them would be the targets, and ultimately trail the duo downfield.
However, he quickly diagnoses Hogan’s route and releases himself from his original coverage.
By the time Hogan makes it out toward the sideline, Gorrer has reacted and closed in.
Hogan made the catch on the play, and Gorrer met the receiver for what would have been a minimal gain. The Bills gained six yards, though, as Gorrer missed an open field tackle. Covering well is half the battle; making the tackle to finish the play is just as important.
That’s one trait the Ravens will miss with Smith out, as Smith was the definition of a sure tackler at cornerback.
But to see Gorrer’s inherent awareness in coverage on display is a good start; he’ll need to make sure to finish plays in Baltimore.
In the same game, Gorrer’s awareness and reaction time was on display again.
Starting the play off as the slot cornerback, Gorrer originally covers the slot receiver downfield as Bills quarterback Kyle Orton stands tall in the pocket and doesn’t tip his passing intentions.
There is a running back in the backfield, though, who has open field in the flat.
The second Orton turns his body to the right and takes a look at the running back, Gorrer reacts.
He leaves his coverage and breaks for the running back before Orton releases the ball.
Gorrer and a slew of other Lions defenders reacted and made the stop for a loss on the play.
This type of play is one that Jimmy Smith made regularly. Smith’s confidence to leave his coverage and be so sure of an underneath receiver being the intended target often led to impact plays for #22, particularly this season.
Gorrer doesn’t offer nearly as much on defense as Jimmy Smith, but this is one thing he certainly will keep going in Baltimore’s secondary.
Gorrer’s awareness or positioning on a play probably won’t come into question, but that’s not to say he doesn’t struggle in coverage.
Where he can get beat is when he loses focus of his technique early in the play, particularly against much faster receivers.
For example, against the Minnesota Vikings, Gorrer is lined up in the slot against Cordarrelle Patterson, one of the league’s fastest players.
This probably intimidates Gorrer before the snap, as he may be nervous of the fact Patterson’s speed will be too much.
That leads to an opening of the hips much too early in the play.
Gorrer essentially gives Patterson the green light to speed past him with this gesture.
Patterson successfully beat Gorrer downfield, but luckily for the Lions defender, he wasn’t thrown to on the play.
Franks struggled with giving receivers too much space such as Gorrer did in the play above, often leading to easy receptions. Gorrer can play close to a receiver when he wants to; being aggressive in Baltimore’s scheme will lead to more success for him than giving receivers a cushion.
For a November free agent signing, the Ravens could do much worse than Gorrer. There weren’t many other options, and bringing in a veteran with some likable qualities and prior experience with the team isn’t a bad personnel move.
Gorrer should offer some more consistency than Franks or Brown. Making the shift back to outside corner may stunt Gorrer’s transition to Baltimore, but in three-corner sets it would behoove the Ravens to slide him into the slot.
Will Gorrer’s performance be enough to help hold Baltimore’s secondary together and keep the Ravens in the playoff hunt?
We’ll soon find out.